Lightened Up Chicken Enchiladas

IMG_3228

In my job as a hotel sales manager, I used to work with brides to coordinate their wedding hotel room blocks. And though I no longer handle the wedding blocks, I often hear the many “bridezilla” stories that my colleagues share. We recently had a bride have a complete meltdown over the brand of Kleenex we offered to place in her guests’ wedding welcome bags. Part of me wanted to laugh, and part of me wanted to call this poor girl up and tell her to take a deep breath, slow down, and remember why she was planning this big party in the first place. Nowadays, with all of the wedding blogs and constant wedding Facebook posts, I can see how so many brides can get caught up in making everything “Pinterest perfect.” And it makes me so sad. Planning the celebration of such a big step in life should be an enjoyable, exciting time. And on your big day, the last thing you should be worrying about are those tiny details that no one will remember. The comment I get the most from guests at my own wedding is “You were the happiest bride I’ve ever seen.” That happiness did not come from wearing a perfect dress, or seeing perfect flowers everywhere. The happiness came from getting to marry my best friend. A year and half later, I’m sure very few people remember what our centerpieces looked like, or what our wedding favor was, but they remember how happy we were on that day. And I hope some of our future brides can share that happiness without getting caught up in the details.

As fun as our wedding day was, having all the attention on me was a bit overwhelming. Being a little shy, the role of “the bride” was a bit strange for me. But taking on the role of “the wife” has been absolutely the best. Eric does all the outdoor work, and I get to cook all of our dinners. And this easy dinner recipe got a big thumbs up. I like to make this recipe for chicken enchiladas on a Sunday when I have a bit more time. Typically I eat one enchilada for dinner, and Eric will eat two. I typically let the leftover enchiladas cool completely before placing in a tupperware and freezing. When you are ready to heat up the remaining portions, just place them in a baking dish and bake at 350 for 10-15 minutes, or until heated through.

Ingredients: Makes 8 enchiladas

  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 3 cups shredded chicken
  • 8 6-inch flour tortillas
  • 3/4 cup shredded Mexican cheese

2.  Stack tortillas; wrap stack in damp paper towels and microwave at HIGH for 25 seconds. Spoon about 1/3 cup chicken mixture in center of each tortilla; roll up. Arrange tortillas, seam sides down, in bottom of a 13 x 9-inch glass or ceramic baking dish coated with cooking spray. Top with reserved sauce and cheese. Broil 3 minutes or until cheese is lightly browned and sauce is bubbly.

Pepperoni Chicken

IMG_2608

Getting back into a regular work week is always a little tough after an especially fun weekend. And this past weekend was definitely a fun one. Eric and I had a fancy date night on Saturday night to celebrate our sixth Valentine’s Day together.  This year we visited Giovanni’s Restaurant in Detroit, which features incredibly delicious and authentic Italian cuisine. Sunday morning we got brunch with some friends and spent the rest of the afternoon watching SNL reruns. So, needless to say, I was a bit sad to see such a relaxing weekend end. But one of the ways I’ve learned to combat the Monday blues is to plan at least one special weeknight meal for the week ahead. It’s fun for me to spend a little more time in the kitchen, and it’s fun for Eric because he gets something a little more special than our typical grilled chicken. One of our new favorites is this Pepperoni Chicken. I had some leftover cheese and pepperoni from a homemade pizza and decided to get a little creative. It made my pizza obsessed husband pretty happy, and I thought it was pretty delicious myself. Enjoy!

Ingredients: Makes 3 servings

  • 3 chicken breasts
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 cup Italian breadcrumbs
  • cooking spray
  • 1/4 cup marinara sauce
  • 1/4 shredded mozzarella
  • 6-8 pepperonis

Preparation:

  1. To prepare the chicken, use a meat mallet to beat chicken until each chicken breast is approximately 1 inch thick, set aside
  2. Set up “breading station” by placing flour in a dish or paper plate. Next mix the beaten egg with 1/4 cup water in a small bowl. Next place Italian breadcrumbs in a 2nd dish or paper plate
  3. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper to taste.
  4. To bread chicken, place in the flour dish first, covering chicken completely with flour. Shake off excess flour.
  5. Next, place floured chicken breast in egg mixture until completely coated. Shake off excess egg.
  6. Finally, place chicken in breadcrumbs until completely coated. Repeat with remaining chicken breasts
  7. Place chicken breasts on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Spray each breast with cooking spray
  8. Bake at 400 for 25 minutes, or until chicken is cooked to an internal temperature of 180 degrees
  9. Remove chicken from oven, and top each chicken breast with 1-2 tablespoons of marinara, 2-3 pepperonis, and 2-3 tablespoons of shredded mozzarella. Return to oven for 1-2 minutes additional cooking time, or until cheese has melted.

IMG_2609

Ranch Chicken Burgers

IMG_2275

I always say I have 3 criteria for a weeknight meal. It has to be delicious, nutritious and easy to make. But recently, I realized there really is a 4th must-have. It has to be easy enough to make to talk on the phone with at least one of my family members at the same time. I talk to my mom, dad, and brother pretty much every day. But whenever I have a tough day, I call Sean first. Yesterday was a rough day. I feel like I’m in Kindergarten writing this but..yesterday someone was mean to me. And just like I did when I actually was in Kindergarten, I went straight to Sean. Back then Sean would take care of things pretty directly. I remember mentioning to Sean that one of the boys in my class was making fun of my height. The very next day, he gave the kid a good firm talking to, and that boy never bothered me again. Just last year, one of my best friends from grade school admitted to still being a little afraid of my brother thanks to that incident. Nowadays, he can’t exactly yell at anyone who hurts my feelings. So instead, he gives me great advice. He told me not to let things that happen during the work day bother me so much. Because at the end of the day, I get to come home to a wonderful husband, great friends, and the best family on earth. And in the end, people can only make you feel bad if you let them. And just like that, I was back to my happy, perky self. Every girl should have a brother like mine.

And now back to dinner. These chicken burgers have already become a favorite in our household. All you need is ground chicken and a few seasonings and you have an incredibly delicious dinner. The use of dry Ranch seasoning adds a great kick to the chicken, and pairs really well with the barbeque sauce of your choice

Ingredients: Makes 4 burgers

  • 1 pound ground chicken
  • 3/4 cup Italian breadcrumbs
  • 2 tablespoons dry Ranch dressing (unprepared)
  • 1 teaspoon Lawry’s seasoning salt
  • 1 teaspoon garlic salt
  • barbeque sauce to taste
  1. Place first 5 ingredients in a large bowl and mix thoroughly until well combined. (I found it was easiest to use my hands to mix everything together)
  2. Form 4 even patties
  3. Heat a nonstick skillet over medium high heat and cook each patty for 1 minute per side, just until the patty has slightly browned
  4. Take the browned patties out of the pan and place on a cookie sheet. Bake at 400 for 20-25 minutes, or until done
  5. Place on a bun, adding barbeque sauce or any topping you’d like

IMG_2276

Asian Chicken Stir Fry

 IMG_2166

Sometimes I feel like no matter what age we are, we are always looking forward. As children, we look forward to that mysterious land of “high school,” where you can drive a car, stay out late, and presumably have the exact same social life as the cast members of Saved by the Bell. As teenagers, we look forward to “college” where curfews don’t exist and we possess that coveted “independence” we always longed for. And as adults, you’re always thinking of the next phase…marriage, buying a house, having kids, advancing your careers, and finally…retirement. It’s hard to “enjoy the moment” when we are constantly looking forward. The funny thing about me is, I never seemed to look forward to the same periods of life as my peers. As a child, I don’t remember longing for high school or college like most of my friends did. Instead, I always remember thinking that the first few years of marriage would be the happiest time in my life. This is undoubtedly a strange thing for a 13 year old to think…but oddly enough, the current time in my life is something I always looked forward to. But this current phase didn’t quite pan out exactly the way 13 year old me thought it would. Because, believe it or not… it is way better. I’m happier right now than I ever thought was possible. Because coming home to my very best friend every night is truly the best. So rather than spending my time over planning for the future..I’m focusing on enjoying this incredible, wonderful season of life. And one of my favorite things about this phase in life is cooking simple dinners at home. As much as Eric would be perfectly happy eating grilled chicken or pizza every night, I love coming up with different  ideas to mix up our weekday dinners. And this was a recent creation that turned out to be quite the hit. It’s very simple to make, and far cheaper and healthier than hitting up the Chinese takeout place down the street. Enjoy!

 

Ingredients: Makes 2 servings

  • 2 small boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced into thin strips
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups frozen vegetables (I used a “stir fry blend” of broccoli, carrots, green beans & cauliflower)
  • 2 cups brown rice, cooked
  • 3-4 tablespoons sunflower seeds

Preparation:

  1. Place raw chicken breasts (thinly sliced) into a large ziploc bag, and cover with next four ingredients (soy sauce through olive oil). Let marinate in the fridge for 30 minutes
  2. Heat a large sauce pan over medium high heat
  3. After chicken has marinated, pour entire contents of the bag into the saucepan.
  4. Cook until chicken has cooked through, and add frozen vegetables
  5. Continue to stir until vegetables are heated through
  6. To serve, place cooked brown rice on a plate, and top with chicken stir fry mixture. Top with sunflower seeds

IMG_2165

Slow Cooker Chicken Caesar Wraps

IMG_1320

Well guys, the holiday season is almost upon us! The 6 weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas are without a doubt my favorite time of the year. I get overly excited each and every year for this wonderful time filled with family, friends and, of course, holiday food. But before I bombard you with billions of festive recipes and holiday adventures, I thought I would share my new favorite weeknight dinner. And it all starts with a slow cooker. My mom bought a slow cooker at an estate sale last summer and I have been loving this amazing kitchen appliance. And no, I am not embarrassed that I am excited about an appliance. Even when I was little, relatives would often give me random cooking and baking appliances for Christmas and I loved each and every one of them. At 12, I received my own blender which resulted in tons of milkshake and smoothie “recipes.” At 15, I received a breadmaker which resulted in loaf after loaf of homemade bread. And now, at 24, the slow cooker is the apple of my eye. My new routine is to throw a few chicken breasts in the slow cooker on Sunday afternoon so I have several servings of shredded chicken to use for lunch and dinner throughout the week. Monday I heated it up and mixed it with a healthy serving of barbeque sauce. Tuesday I  used it in a big salad. Wednesday I added it to Chicken Quesadillas and Thursday I made these super easy Chicken Caesar Wraps. Below is both the base recipe for shredded chicken and the recipe I used for the Chicken Caesar Wraps. The nice thing about the slow cooker is that there is no added butter or oil, yet the chicken comes out incredibly moist and tender. So here is (perhaps my last) healthy recipe before the holiday baking season officially begins. Enjoy!

 

Shredded Chicken Ingredients: Makes 6-8 servings

  • 6 frozen chicken breasts
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon Lawry’s seasoning salt (or seasoning of your choice)

Chicken Caesar Wrap Ingredients: Makes 2 servings

  • 1 1/2 cups shredded chicken
  • 1/2 cup Caesar dressing
  • 2 wraps
  • 1 cup chopped romaine lettuce
  • 3 tablespoons shredded parmesan cheese

Preparation:

  1. To prepare the shredded chicken: Place frozen chicken breasts in the slow cooker and cover with chicken broth and seasoning
  2. Turn slow cooker on high, and let cook for 6 hours
  3. After chicken is tender and cooked through completely, transfer chicken breasts to a large bowl, straining any remaining liquid
  4. Using two forks, shred chicken breasts*
  5. To prepare chicken Caesar wraps: Place 1 1/2 cups shredded chicken in a medium bowl and add Caesar dressing, mixing until just combined. (You may want to add more dressing depending upon your preference)
  6. To assemble wraps, place 1/2 cup shredded romaine in each wrap
  7. Top each wrap with 3/4 cup chicken mixture
  8. Sprinkle each wrap with 1 1/2 tablespoons shredded parmesan cheese
  9. Roll the wrap up and enjoy!

*Store extra shredded chicken in an airtight container in the fridge.

IMG_1321

Oatmeal Applesauce Muffins

IMG_1168

When I was 12 or 13 I wrote down a list of goals I hoped to accomplish in life. Some of them were simple and have already been checked off the list. Write a letter to my 7th grade teacher and thank him for teaching me so much about literature and life. Check. Travel somewhere I’ve never been, completely on my own. Check. And then there were a few goals that will take a lot more work and patience. One of these goals is run in the Detroit Marathon. It’s a bit funny to me that I had this ambition so long ago when running wasn’t even really a part of my every day life. Sure, I ran fairly regularly to stay in shape but I didn’t enjoy it. And running any distance longer than 2 miles seemed absolutely miserable. But over the years, running became so much more than a way to stay in shape. As crazy as it might sound, I think it’s become a big part of who I am. I’ve always been a chronic over thinker, over analyzer and, well, all around spazz. But running somehow balances me in a way I can’t quite explain. Starting every day quietly with only the sound of my feet on the pavement calms me down and settles my over active mind.  So for the last 3 months I have been working at achieving this particular life long goal. I’ve suffered sore muscles, frigid ice baths and 7am Saturday wakeup calls from Eric, encouraging me to get the long run in before the heat and humidity set in. But overall, I’ve really enjoyed the training process. Getting to increase my mileage each week and walk away with the knowledge that I ran 9, 10, 11 miles all before 9am has been an amazing feeling.  In a few days I will run the Detroit Half Marathon.  I may not run the race quickly or perfectly paced but I’m confidant that I will cross that finish line with a flurry of endorphins and sore muscles. So what, you may ask, does this have to do with muffins? Well, one of the things I’ve learned from half marathon training is the importance of proper fueling. I never like to eat before I run, but I started realizing running anything over 6 miles on an empty stomach didn’t leave me feeling too hot. Enter these muffins. They are slightly sweet and chock full of wholesome ingredients. And at only 90 calories a pop, they aren’t so filling that you feel like you’re running with a brick in your stomach. Key for a good run. I started making a batch of these per week, and they are so delicious I may continue baking them even after my half marathon training is done. So whip up a batch of these babies on Sunday, and send me good vibes so I can cross the finish line in one piece!

Ingredients: Makes 12 muffins, Adapted slightly from from Sisterhood of the Shrinking Jeans

  • 1 cup old fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 cup nonfat milk
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon, divided
  • 1 tsp sugar

Preparation:

  1. In a small bowl, soak the oats in the milk and let sit for at least one hour
  2. Combine the oat mixture with the applesauce and egg whites until just combined
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk dry ingredients together (whole wheat flour through salt)
  4. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon into dry ingredients, set remaining 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon aside
  5. Mix dry ingredients with wet ingredients until just combined
  6. Scoop muffin batter into a muffin pan lined with muffin liners
  7. In a small bowl, combine sugar and remaining cinnamon and sprinkle evenly over muffin batter
  8. Bake at 400 for 20-25 minutes

IMG_1166

Two Ingredient Pumpkin Cookies

IMG_1149

Happy First Day of Fall! Crisp mornings, cozy sweaters and baked goods filled with cinnamon and pumpkin easily make fall my favorite season. So I thought I would share a few of my favorite things about the best season of the year to go along with the easiest cookie recipe on earth.

1. Fall Running Weather. Once fall ushers in the slightly chilly temperatures, running becomes so much more enjoyable. And since I already love to run, fall running weather turns me into a running machine. This year I’m training for a half marathon, and I am absolutely loving the crisp morning air and the crunch of fallen leaves on my long runs.

IMG_1136

2. Tailgates at MSU. Ever since we graduated from Michigan State 2 1/2 years ago, my group of college friends try to pick at least one football game to have a big tailgate on our old stomping grounds. You can’t get much better than friends, tailgate food, beer and football. Even if I still don’t quite understand the rules of football just yet.

IMG_0371

3. Baseball Playoffs: This is a relatively new “fall favorite” of mine. Being from Detroit, our home baseball team wasn’t very good for most of my life. But over the last few years, the Tigers have not only become a team to watch, we even made it to the World Series last year. I work a block from the stadium so the excitement of playoff season is definitely infectious.

IMG_0381

4. Pumpkin Mania. Pumpkin muffins, pumpkin pancakes and pumpkin spice lattes. Come September, Pumpkin is everywhere and I can’t get enough. So that brings us to the easiest cookie recipe ever. These 2 ingredients cookies, made popular on Pinterest, come together in a flash. All you do is mix a box of cake mix with a can of pumpkin, and after a few minutes in the oven, you have yourself a decadent batch of fluffy, cakelike pumpkin cookies. I like to top them with cream cheese frosting for an especially decadent treat, but they are just as delicious without the topping. Enjoy!

Ingredients: Makes 2 dozen cookies

  • 1 box spice cake mix
  • 1 can of pumpkin
  • Cream Cheese Frosting (store bought or homemade)

Preparation:

  1. Place cake mix and pumpkin in a large bowl and and mix until just combined
  2. Drop batter by the tablespoon onto a greased cookie sheet
  3. Bake at 350 for 10-15 minutes
  4. Let cookies cool and top with frosting if desired

IMG_1147

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

IMG_1069

Nobody loves a good deal quite like my mother. I’ve observed her thrifty ways for years and admired each and every incredible deal that she has scored. She can tell you which Marshall’s has the best home goods, and which TJ Maxx has the best deal on workout clothes. She knows all the great online shopping sites and somehow always manages to get beautiful clothes and shoes for half the price. But her latest spot for scoring a good deal is a bit more old fashioned. Estate Sales. She’ll flip through the newspaper to find which old homes around town are hosting estate sales and off she goes. She has found some beautiful old furniture, a plethora of bakery style cookie sheets and cupcake pans, and most recently, a slow cooker. And the best part? Not only are these items found at half the price, but they are in great condition as well. So when she brought home a slow cooker in perfect condition, I knew I had to test it out with a recipe I’ve been saving. Slow Cooker Pulled Pork. This recipe is incredibly easy and only has a handful of steps to complete before your kitchen is filled with the delicious smell of slow cooked barbeque. You can choose to cook the pork for longer at a low heat, or if you are short on time, you can cook it on high. Both methods result in a tender and flavorful batch of pulled pork that is delicious with or without barbeque sauce. Personally, I like my pulled pork with just a drizzle of barbeque sauce and a scoop of tangy cole slaw. The perfect summer dish brought to you by my mother’s incredible bargain hunting skills.

Ingredients: Recipe from Chow.com, Makes 8 to 10 servings

  • 2 medium yellow onions, thinly sliced
  • 4 medium garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon packed  brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 (4-1/2- to 5-pound) boneless or bone-in pork shoulder (also known as pork butt),
  • 2 cups barbecue sauce (optional)

Preparation:

  1. Place thinly sliced onions and garlic in the bottom of the slow cooker pot and cover with chicken broth
  2. In a small bowl, combine next five ingredients (brown sugar through cinnamon) and rub mixture over pork
  3. Place pork over onion layer and cover. Cook on high for 6 to 8 hours, or cook on low for 8 to 10 hours
  4. After pork has cooked through, use tongs to remove pork pieces from the slow cooker (it should be very tender and fall off the bones)
  5. Place pork in a bowl and use two forks to shred pork
  6. Mix in barbeque sauce, if desired

IMG_1070

Faygo Cola Baby Back Ribs

IMG_0865

New Yorkers may have their cheesecake and Chicagoans may have their deep dish pizza, but here in Detroit we have Faygo. If you aren’t from Michigan you may not have heard of Faygo, but it’s a Detroit brand of pop (or soda) that comes in a ton of fun flavors. From Orange Crush to Rock n Rye to Pineapple, Faygo has pretty much every flavor of pop covered. So it came as no surprise that a Faygo recipe contest was held here in Michigan a few years back. Winning recipes included Rock n Rye Braised Pot Roast and Pineapple Faygo Pound Cake. But the recipe that really stuck out to me was the Grand Prize winning Faygo Cola Ribs. I received the Faygo recipe contest cookbook for Christmas, and have been waiting for barbeque season to give this winning recipe a try. And this past weekend I made the Faygo Cola ribs for my family, and we were blown away by just how good they were. And the recipe is so easy that it made me wonder why I don’t make ribs more often. The ribs were incredibly tender and the meat fell off the bone easily. The Faygo Cola barbeque sauce was slightly spicy, and full of flavor. Definitely the perfect new recipe to try for your Memorial Day Barbeque this weekend. Enjoy!

Ingredients: Serves 6-7 , Recipe adapted slightly from the Faygo Recipe Cookbook

  • 6 pounds of baby back pork ribs
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Montreal Steak Seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 cup Faygo cola
  • 2 cups ketchup
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup vinegar
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon hot sauce

Preparation:

  1. Place ribs on a large cutting board and use a paring knife to remove the white fatty membrane from the underside of the ribs (the side closest to the bone)
  2. Rub ribs with salt, pepper, and steak seasoning and place in a large roasting pan and cover with tin foil
  3. Place ribs in the oven, and bake at 350 for 1 1/2 hours
  4. To make the Faygo barbeque sauce, combine next 8 ingredients in a large bowl (garlic salt through hot sauce)
  5. After ribs have cooked for the first hour and a half, remove from oven and pour Faygo barbeque sauce evenly over the ribs
  6. Cover ribs with tin foil, and return them to the oven for another 1 1/2 hours of cooking time
  7. Remove ribs from the oven and let stand for 15 minutes before serving

IMG_0864